We've Really Only Got One
Hey, cool cats. I hope everyone had a safe and sane Fourth of July. How's it going on the straw and bag front? Don't worry if you can't remember every time, or even every third time. It's hard. If you've foregone using at least one piece of plastic, though, give yourself a pat on the back, and imagine all of us at Posh Pooch are doing the same. If you want to come down to get one from us in person, please don't hesitate. We're passably friendly most of the time. I can't speak for every sea creature in the ocean, but I assume that they'd like to give you kudos for your effort as well. Every little bit counts, really.
A couple of months ago at the shop we got a call from a new customer to schedule an appointment for her pup. Luckily for that doggo, we had some time to get him all fresh and clean, but luckily for us, his owner was Rayne Horth, a Sustainability major and current Waste and Resource Management Specialist. We were all so excited to meet someone who works in this field of study, and honestly she was the first any of us had really come into contact with.
Rayn was, (still is, too), awesome enough to talk with us and answer all of the questions we had about the kind of outlook her work provides her, as well as her advice to anyone interested in leaving our planet better than we found it.
Melesssa and I fired up the old cell phones, got on a conference call, and got the opportunity to pick Rayn's brain, (another great band name, yeesh), for a while and get the answers to some of our burning curiosities. Since we are a product of this instant gratification morass we call the 21st century, our first question was about the easiest ways to commit to a sustainable lifestyle, (which usually translates to reducing the amount of carbon we put out), some changes in behavior that are entry-level while still having a noticeable positive impact.
According to Rayn, the first may be the thing that has been imprinted onto our collective conscious for the last few decades: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. It is something that may seem more marketing than mindset, but she told us that it really is important to keep in mind throughout day to day affairs. There's a reason the saying is in that order, as well. The three terms are listed in descending levels of benefit in eliminating waste--it is more beneficial to not use something in the first place than it is to repurpose it, which is, in turn, better than breaking it down for recycling.
Not to say that recycling isn't amazing, of course. Rayn told us about the recycling program at our very own Orange Coast College that distributes the funds they receive from turning in materials back into the sustainability program itself, enabling them to be a bit more self-sufficient. Melesssa and I were blown away when she brought up Budweiser's recycling program that collects used cans, and in a matter of only three weeks turns them back into fresh cans ready to be filled with nearly-palatable beer. Budweiser is obviously not a sponsor, but I respect the hell out of that turnaround time.
Another great and simple way to make a change is to abstain from eating meat in any capacity, but more specifically beef, Rayn told us. Whether that is cutting from your diet altogether, or having steak only once a week instead of twice, any reduction of eating our bovine friends is a pretty wise choice. Cows produce the most methane, a pretty hefty greenhouse gas and the stuff that farts are made of, out of any livestock animal. I know, believe me, it can be a bit scary to think of a world with slightly less red meat in your life, but as with any noble endeavor, there must be sacrifice.
Moving up in effort, but also in impact, we spoke about some of the longer term goals to reducing one's carbon footprint. Again, these may be things you have heard before, but they bear repeating, for sure. For a sizable investment, outfitting your home or business with solar can have a ton of benefits both in the immediate future and down the line. Who hasn't fantasized about their electric bill being a big goose egg? Better yet, how about catching the omnipresent rays of the sun so efficiently that you have power to sell back to the plebian masses? In a lot of cases, the panels will pay for themselves, albeit slowly, but they can add value to a property and, more importantly, switch one small part of the world away from traditional power and into the world of renewable resources.
Using public transport, Rayn said, can be kind of off putting for some people, but is a way to not only save some hard earned cash, but save some hard earned planet at the same time. I know that where we are here in Orange County the public transit system is less than stellar, but it is something to look into. If there is more of a demand for a comprehensive transit system, then the future could hold major integration of something you would normally see in a cityscape. Also, trains are super fun. You could pretend you're an old school hobo ridin' the rails, or get your daily adrenaline kick by becoming a train robber. (Legal Disclaimer: Posh Pooch says don't steal from anyone, unless you're going to go all Robin Hood about it.)
How about saving water? A drought tolerant landscape instead of a regular grass lawn can save oodles, (scientific terminology), of water a year, and in California here, things have been pretty thirsty for a while. Consider cacti and rocks and make your very own desert scene, you'll attract local wildlife, approval of neighbors, and possibly a wacky roadrunner and coyote duo. If you have any questions about what to plant, there are a ton of resources online about what will work best in our climate zone, bonus points if you plant something bee friendly.
We asked Rayn what other ways to stay sustainable were always at the forefront of her mind. She promised she wasn't employed by the company Seventh Generation, and that she wasn't under duress when she went on about how much she loved their products. Sprouts carries a bunch of their stuff, and both Melesssa and I use some of it at home. As Rayn put it, and as their motto states, we can't just think about first or second generations of the products we consume, but all the way to the seventh. Something that Rayn keyed us into that was a revelation was that in addition to reusable grocery bags, there are also reusable produce bags available for sale. They are made of mesh and hold up to even the pointiest of carrots.
An issue that Rayn felt especially passionate about was lessening the use of single-use plastics, e.g. straws, and that is something we had just discovered for ourselves not too long ago. Rayn has a great story of selling her stainless steel straw to a McDonald's cashier, ask her about it sometime. This folded into her next point about making less waste in general, (remember that paragraph about reduction?), as she stated how easy it was to reduce her household garbage per week simply by being aware and making small efforts throughout the day. How many times have you pulled a paper towel off the roll to use it for something inconsequential, something that didn't warrant a whole piece? I know I have, like, a lot. No bueno.
Our final question was asking our resident expert how people can get involved in organizations dedicated to all of the cool things we've been talking about, and where to look for them. One of Rayn's favorite organizations to look into is the Sierra Club, as they are pretty big and have chapters all over the place. She recommended looking into local recycling centers to see if there are any volunteer opportunities, as well as keeping your ear to the ground for beach cleanup events. Heal the Bay is another favorite of hers. It's not like we have any shortage of beaches or beach trash, unfortunately.
Something we were both curious about, and that we asked Rayn early on, is if there is any big misconception about sustainability that people may not be aware of. So many people think that they can't and won't make a difference, she said, but they absolutely can. Yes, there is a huge amount of work to be done and wrongs to be righted, and though it may seem insurmountable at times, every single effort is worthwhile. I wanted to put this down here at the bottom because it is a nice punctuation to all we've talked about over these last two posts, even though it's also been a slight motif.
When people say their vote doesn't matter, or that their spare change into a donation can won't make a difference, they are wrong. There is beauty in many coming together for a common goal, there is positive force from a thousand small hands. Canyons aren't carved in one fell swoop, but by a persevering river, and change will come when we as individuals realize that we can make it happen.